Monday, September 29, 2008

a weekend with family i don't even know

So...where have I been, right?

Sorry for disappearing off the blog-o-sphere. I blame a weekend in Gotha, a few days in Belgium, my husband finally coming home to distract me, and a miserable cold we both caught. I still have the cold, but I'm getting sick and tired of feeling sick and tired so I'm determined to get back to you, dear readers, and reassure you that I still live.

But although I have lots to post about, I'm going to start off slowly...because I am still sick and tired...with a little report on a surprisly cool weekend, September 13 and 14, in the German town of Gotha meeting family I hardly knew existed.

So, here's the backstory on this strange little weekend I had. Remember last November when I was in the States visiting my family and Karl searched out his distant German relatives in Gotha and made a very cool film about it? That film was shown at his huge family's annual reunion in February and it inspired one of his uncles to visit Germany. Uncle David planned to come to Germany with one of his sons who was going to be attending a medical conference in Munich and make his own visit to these German relatives. He'd been planning this trip for months with my husband who was going to serve as a translater for him. And then Karl decided to take a trip home for his neice's wedding. So guess who got delegated to be his uncle's translator?

Now, keep in mind that although I've meet many of Karl's relatives I've by no means met them all and I can't even keep straight half the ones I have met. That's how big his family is. I mean really big. Early in our relationship we would often go to his family events and the following scenerio happened to us far more than once: someone would come up and talk to us, they'd leave, I'd ask Karl who that was, and he'd respond with "I'm not sure, I think it was one of my cousins."

Karl's mother was the third of 13 children and I don't think anyone in the family really knows how many first cousins my husband has...everyone seemed to have lost track at 80. In fact, my brother ended up marrying one of my husband's cousins...his family it THAT big. It was bound to happen.

So...long story short, Karl has a big family and I was suddenly in charge of meeting with people I've never met before to show them around a town I've never been before and translate with some German people I've also never met before and that's how much I love my husband!

But it really turned out to be a very, very cool weekend. Karl's family was a delight (not that I was surprised, his family IS amazing!), the Germans were very gracious, we had a lot of fun and I impressed even myself with my German language skills!

I was so busy translating between families most of the time I didn't get many pictures taken, but here are a few...

Gotha is the town where Karl's grandfather, Henry, was born. His grandfather's mother, Gretchen, was also born there and she was the one who made the decision to leave for America, thus separating the German and American lines of his family.

First stop was Wolfgang's house who was the star of Karl's film. I arrived with Karl's uncle David, his son Geoff and Geoff's wife Kathleen with their two sons Jon and Will. They graciously fed us a wonderful meal including tasty Thuringer Wurst (a local specialty!). Then they gave us a tour of the Protestant church next door to their home where Wolfgang and his son restored the original church pews. Wolfgang's son, Wilfred, continues to wind the church clock taking it over from Wolfgang when he retired who had taken over the job from his own father.

Wolfgang's family invited over another cousin, Annemarie, who had some great stories of the family. We all watched Karl's finished film together and I think Wolfgang was very proud of it!

The reason great-grandmother Gretchen decided to leave Germany for America was because she and her mother was baptized into the LDS church when she was a child. After she started her own family she felt the need to move to the States where she could be closer to others of her faith. She only ever described the location of her baptism vaguely but after a bit of research we found a possible is Uncle David with his grandsons at a possible baptism location for David's grandmother. Her choice both to be baptized and to relocate her family to America had obvious far-reaching consequences for Karl's family and I think this trip to Gotha was not only a exploration of family roots but an aknowlegdment of her sacrifices for giving her family the best she could.

Geoff and his sons gazing up at the birthplace of great-grandmother Gretchen.

Geoff and his son Will in front of grandfather Henry's birthplace.

More distant cousins... Klaus and his wife (sorry for the bad photo!). They weren't expecting us and we very nearly didn't find their house. But they were incredibly welcoming once I explained we were distant American relatives!

I had so much fun and I'm so glad I can no longer call these family member, both the Germans and the Americans, strangers. And I even forgave my husband for leaving me all alone to deal with this! And this post turned out longer than I intended and I'm starting to feel that cold again so I'm off to drown myself in juice and cough suppressent on the couch in front of the TV...


Rosebud Collection said...

First, I hope you are feeling much better today..The pictures were all wonderful and enjoyed the story with them..What a great time this had to be..meeting all your husbands relatives and learning so much more about them..

littlebrownpen said...

I really enjoyed reading this! My family is from the Black Forest area in Germany. Though none of them have ever been back to visit, I travel to Germany often for work, and enjoy Bavaria very much (I have clients in Sulzberg). Thanks for sharing your story and photos.

Nicole R.J. said...

Very cool! It's awesome that you can connect with family from "back home." I'm always so evnious when I read/hear about people doing that!

Hope you kick the cold soon!

Michelle Morris said...

makes me want to go to Sicily and find birthplaces of my relatives! But this is full time work to figure it all out! Hope you are feeling better.

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